James Meredith talks time at Ole Miss, next steps in talk with OHS students

Published 12:26 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

Civil rights icon James Meredith spoke to students at Oxford High School on Thursday, sharing stories about his time in the Air Force and his work during the Civil Rights movement while offering suggestions on how to continue bridging the racial divide in Mississippi.

Meredith told a story about his time spent stationed in Japan, where he got an up close and personal look at how segregation permeated through all aspects of society.

He referred to the base he was assigned to as “desegregated but not integrated,” pointing out that while black and white soldiers served together on the same base, they were forced to use different entrances and often did not enjoy the same rights.

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He said the experience was integral to the development of his character and helped put him on the path that eventually led to his enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962.

Meredith went on to share details about some of his experiences at Ole Miss, explaining what it was like to go to class under armed guard and the pride he felt when he finally crossed the stage during commencement.

He also offered guidance on how to continue bridging the large racial divide in Mississippi, saying that education and a return to religious values were the keys to solving major issues.

He ended his remarks with a direct plea to the young women in the audience, calling on them to take the initiative in erasing racial barriers.

“I want to talk directly to the women now… because women are the only ones who can solve this black/white issue,” Meredith said.

The event was organized by OHS junior Hiram Eastland IV and his grandfather Hiram Eastland Jr., who introduced Meredith as a family friend before sharing stories about their own experiences with the Mississippi legend.

Meredith was in town to help promote a new documentary directed by his wife Judy entitled, “Who is James Meredith?”

The documentary provides an inside look at Meredith’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement through interviews and conversations with his family and friends.

A screening of the documentary will take place in room 326 of the Ole Miss Student Union at 3 p.m. on Thursday.